Xia's Journey

The Magical Sky Mirror, Kuala Selangor

Since some time last year, lots of friends had been flooding my wall with this very spectacular, mirror reflection in the sea. It brought out the curiosity in me and intrigued my travel bug and feet to make my way there.

Prior to the visit, I didn’t know much of this location except that it was an island or a sea bed near the sea at Kuala Selangor… or so I thought.

The day finally came when my friends and I took an overnight Sri Maju coach from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and then got an Uber from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Selangor old town which was an hour’s journey away. The fare came up to RM70 and the toll fees were RM2.50 x 3 tolls. However, we were being charged a total of RM85, probably for the two-way toll fees lest he couldn’t get any customers on his return trip back to KL.

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Overnight Sri Maju coach which was comfy and spacious with lots of leg space. One of my favorite coach providers.

19 Oct 2017, Thursday

We had booked our package from Sky Mirror Tour and Travel and prior to the trip, I made some enquiries via email and the boss replied to my emails personally. Hence, I speculated that it was some small ‘ulu’ company and that the boss had to reply the emails himself. But I was wrong… It came as a surprise to me that it was a rather well-organised, large set-up with proper systems and procedures in place.


Excited and all ready for our Sky Mirror adventure, we waited impatiently for our pickup from Sky Mirror Tour and Travel to send us to their private jetty which was a 5 to 10 minutes drive away from Vi hotel where we were staying.

lee Vee at Vi Hotel. Heh hehh… A very new and clean hotel (started in early 2017) with even a swimming pool. Was largely impressed considering it was a small town without much tourists.

We arrived at their private jetty. It wasn’t a huge place but there was a good amount of seats for the waiting visitors, few but clean washroom and shower facilities, lots of sample pictures from the previous visitors and a small counter for the staffs. They conducted a briefing session before we boarded the boat and off we went for our adventure.

Lots of seats for the waiting visitors, few but clean washroom and shower facilities, lots of sample pictures from the previous visitors and a small counter for the staffs.

It was a 30 minutes bumpy boat ride before we finally arrived…. in the middle of the sea and in the middle of errrmmmm nowhere…

We have arrived. Huhhh…??!! Here…??!!

Our boat guide (Johnny) turned around and told us, “We are here, we can get off the boat now.” We were like…. “Errmmm… Are you sure? We don’t see any ‘ground’ that we could stand on…!” Except for the vast sea that stretches to nowhere, there was nothing in sight.

A boat could take about 20 paxs => 18 customers + 1 boat guide + 1 boatman

Can get off the boat…??!!

He took the lead and got off the boat. Seeing him stand on some ‘solid ground’, we got off the boat too. There was indeed a piece of flat land that we could stand on!

Ohhh… Really can stand….??!!

We had arrived at “Sky Mirror”! Facebook posts and Wikipedia have dubbed it as the Salar de Uyuni of Malaysia, ‘mystery’ or ‘secret island’ as like the Salar lake in Bolivia.

This picture on the left was taken when we first got off the boat. The water was about mid-calf. About 15 minutes later, the water subsided until it only covered our feet!


It was a very phenomenal experience. On beautiful days, the sky and sea would merge as one, combined with the shallow waters, creating awesome reflections for the visitors.

We were only given one hour at this location, because, if not, the tide will start to rise again and we would not be able to get out in time as once it rose to (full) high tide, it was a normal sea route for the massive container ships!

During the one hour, we had such a blast posing, jumping, running around, cam-whoring. Omg… one hour where got enough…??!! But seriously, we were totally shacked out after that one hour. Wahahhahaa….. : p

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We were quite thankful to the staffs at Sky Mirror Tour and Travel that went around helping to take pics for their customers, suggesting quirky and funny poses and yet at the same time ensuring that our safety was not compromised.

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This ‘island’ could be visited up to about 20 days in a month, with its best visiting dates being the 1st and 15th of the lunar month, as well as 4 days before or after these dates. These dates have the most ideal tide levels and timings for visit as the rest of the ideal tide levels may not coincide with the ideal tide timings, meaning ideal tide level could be at midnight etc.


21 Oct 2017, Saturday

Taking into consideration that we will be traveling so far to Kuala Selangor to catch the Sky Mirror, we had decided to book for two days lest we couldn’t get the awesome pics on the first day due to bad weather etc.

So, here we were… off to our second Sky Mirror trip on Saturday.

So excited for our second Sky Mirror trip !

We had requested for Johnny to be our boat guide once again as we had gotten very comfortable and happy with his cheery smile, jokes and laughter.

Such a sunshine guy with his pearly white teeth and cheery smile : )

Yayyy…. We have finally arrived and time for another one hour of crazy fun… Yeahhoooo…. ; p

Can’t wait… : p

This time round, we bought and brought more props for our cam-whoring session…

bubble gun to create the magical effect

buckets to create the water trail effects… but… gua gua gua… #failed…. Wahahahhaa…..

and nice dresses to lup over and take nice nice peektures!

So pretty…!! The reflection I mean…. Heh heh hehh… : D





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Sky Mirror is also home to a multitude of marine life such as sea clams, baby clams, bamboo clams, sea anemones, shore crabs, red crabs, soldier crabs, sea snails, and a variety of shells scattered abundantly in the sand. If one observes closely, you could see them glitter like diamonds under the sun.


Some tips for friends who would like to visit this magical destination;

  • I would suggest that you drive or rent a vehicle to get to Kuala Selangor. Once we got into Kuala Selangor town, it was pretty difficult for us to get around, as there were no public taxis or buses running on the streets. Getting an Uber or a Grab was equally as difficult.


  • Having a clear blue sky is certainly a blessing. The sunnier it is, the prettier your pictures would turn out. Hence, do go prepared with tons of sunblock, otherwise, you may look as charcoal as me when you get back.


  • As there is nowhere (no chairs, no tables as you are in the middle of the sea) to place your belongings at Sky Mirror, a waterproof bag would come in very handy to place your belongings in them before placing them on the wet ground.


  • Props such as colourful brolly and signages are provided, but nothing should stop you from preparing your own props to add to that extra fun! For those that are keen to maximise their mileage, you may even want to research on some of the poses you could do, and “practice” them beforehand as you only have one hour at this location.


  • Visitors are highly encouraged to go in bright colourful apparels and if you are going with a group of friends, you may even want to co-ordinate your colors so that you will not end up with 4 of you wearing the same red top : (


  • When shooting at the Sky Mirror, you would need to go low, as low as you can to get the best reflection. It would even be better if you could lie flat on your tummy to shoot! Hahaa… Remember to get spots with puddles of still water so as not to mar the reflection.

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  • To help you out a little, you may want to get a brick-like platform about 3cm to 5cm height that is strong, sturdy (will not float away), and broad enough to hold your camera to get that solo / couple / group shot lest you are not able to find someone to help you cos’ everyone is so busy cam-whoring, no one would have time to help you, except for the staffs, but they are also busy moving around all the time too!


  • Its quite a bumpy 30 minutes boat ride each way. For those that are prone to sea sickness, you might want to consider getting your sea sickness medications ready.


  • For any friends that are keen to visit, I would highly suggest that you pre-book your package with Sky Mirror Tour and Travel. (I am not paid or reimbursed to endorse them, but I’m recommending based on my experience vs my friend’s experience comparing this visit with the previous one that he went with.)


Sky Mirror Tour and Travel

Being the first to launch these sky mirror tours, they have abundance of experience under their belt in terms of the tide timings (extremely important!), logistical control, safety precautions, experienced boatman and boat guides.

If we were to arrive at the Sky Mirror too early, we would have to wait longer for the tide to subside. If we were to arrive too late, we would have wasted the remaining 1 hour available. I believe they might have despatch a staff to the site every morning to ensure the best and most appropriate timing before sending the visitors on their way, so that visitors like us will be able to maximise our time at the Sky Mirror and yet not having to wait too long onboard for the tide to subside.

On our return trip, the sea got very choppy and experience from the boatman was put to the test. If he goes too slow, the boat would tip over and capsize. If he goes too fast, the boat will crush the waves and capsize too. Hence, we witnessed first-hand how important it was to have an experienced boatman sending us to and fro, and to think how much we have belittled his role, and worse of all, with little appreciation for the hardwork that he has put in, into ensuring our safety.


How much we have belittled his powers of battling through the crazy choppy waves every single day to ensure our safety!

Previously, my friend engaged the services of another company (X) and they were stuck on the boat on their return trip as that company had miscalculated the tide timing and the tide was too low for the boat to dock. They had to park near an island and waited 3 hours in the rocking boat, for the tide to rise before their boat could get back into the jetty. Pity those that have sea sickness.


Sky Mirror Tours have also managed to secure a land to build their own pier so as to facilitate logistical control. Personally, I think it was cleaner and more efficient in terms of logistical management as we didn’t have to wait for throngs of people before it got to our turn.

Sky Mirror Tour and Travel Private Jetty (Image from Sky Mirror Tour and Travel Facebook Page)

Apart from the above, the company also includes insurance coverage for its passengers. Should something happens…. choiiii… at least there was some form of protection. #jes saying


  • Last of all, you need to bring your craziest, fun and adventurous spirit with you so as to immerse yourself and make the most out of it.

BBB in Bali

As like every other year, I would attempt to do a sunrise on my birthday; i.e. Sunrise on a sunflower field in Thailand, Trekking up Mt Kinabalu or a Cold chilly sunrise at Bagan, Myanmar.

For 2016, I thought I should take a break and go on a yoga retreat instead. And so I went ahead to book my air tics and yoga retreat package at Bali.

Alas, 3 weeks before my trip, I had a nasty fall and broke my left elbow and fractured my right thumb during a night cycling. As I had paid for the deposit at the yoga retreat centre, I managed to cancel the yoga retreat package and had it converted into a two nights accommodation.

BBB in Bali

Had a nasty fall three weeks before my yoga retreat and had to cancel it.

Fast forward to 1 Dec, I flew over to Bali and made my way to the yoga retreat centre.


Arrives in Bali and wowww…. was really an impressive airport.

2 Dec 2016, Friday

After staying 2 days at the yoga retreat centre in Canggu (Serenity Eco Guest House). I had to make my way to Kuta.


Had a two-days stay here. Love it for its rustic-ness and the variety of yoga classes. But as the premise was really huge, many of the spots were not well-kept and at times, dusty. I had not sneezed so much in a long time.

As I was wandering along the streets outside the resort, I chanced upon a “motor-taxi” and after some negotiations, we agreed at IDR 50,000 from Canggu to Kuta, which was about an hour’s ride away. I thought I had gotten a good deal, but bammm….

After boarding the bike, he started talking. Being the chatty and talkative me, I started replying too, thinking that he was just being friendly and letting my defences down.

Below’s a transcript of our conversation. Thinking back, I think it was both scary and funny… Wahahaa…

Babbling Bike Boy (BBB)

BBB: Are you here on this trip alone?

Me: Yaa.

BBB: Your boyfriend never come?

Me: Ohh… He’s busy.

BBB: So, do you have sex with your boyfriend everyday?

Me: (Hmmm… what kind of question is this and what business is it of his!?) Hmmm…. Yaa…

BBB: So, is he good in bed? And he began to rock the bike!

Me: (Huhh…??!! Omg….) Ohh… yaaa….

BBB: I have a Big, Black Banana. Do you want to try?

Me: Errrmm, No… Thank you.

Me: (Omg… where is he going? Will he send me to my destination? Shall I jump off the bike and get another transport? I do not even know where am I and how easy was it to get another transport if I got off his bike. Thoughts ran amok in my head but I was quite surprised at how calm I was.)

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Babbling Bike Boy with his Big Black Banana (BBB : X )


Behind this smile was a thumping heart and an amok brain… Should I jump off the bike and run or should I continue with the journey on his bike? OMG… what have I gotten myself into?

He kept going on and on, telling me how good he was in bed. I just kept quiet and prayed hard that I’ll reach my destination soon. Thankfully, I arrived at my destination, for what seems like an eternity.

3 Dec 2016, Saturday

Since I could no longer do the yoga retreat, one of my friends suggested I catch a sunrise at Sanur Beach near Kuta for my birthday.

On 3 Dec morning, I dragged myself out of the bed at 4.30am and decided to catch a (proper) cab to the beach after my ordeal with the motor taxi the day prior.

It was 5am and pitch dark when I got into the cab. The cab driver started talking and asked why am I going to the beach at 5am in the morning. I told him I was there to catch a sunrise.

CD : “Are you here on this trip alone?”

Me : (Instinctively, I knew something was not right because I was asked the exact same question by the BBB (Babbling Bike Boy) the day prior.) “No, I’m here with my boyfriend.”

CD : “Ohh, so, where is he?”

Me : “He’s in the hotel room.”

CD : “I see. Now, its only 5am. You can reach the beach by 5.30am. It’s too early. Why don’t we sit by the beach and kiss?” (He suggested.)

Me : “Ohh noo…. I’m busy.” (Garnering my experience from the previous encounter.) “I’m a travel reporter and I’m here for work. I need to find a framing for the sunrise, take notes etc. I need to document my entire sunrise experience, including this cab ride.”

CD : Suddenly, he knew he was in danger of being “exposed’ to the media. And he laughed. “Ohh… maybe you would write about this cheeky taxi-driver too?”. Ohh yes… you bet. And there, you are… Hahahaa… (Unfortunately it was too dark and I didn’t manage to catch any picture of him.)

Not long after, he called one of his friends to take over the job of sending me to the beach and gave excuses that he had just received another job. Holy crap… But, well, so much for the perils of a single female traveller.

Anyways, I got to the beach and back, safe and sound ~ pheww! And I caught this beautiful sunrise on my 40th birthday. Thank you, God, for the love and protection and for giving me yet another beautiful sunrise.


Thank you God for the beautiful sunrise!


Love the smell of a sunrise, though its a tug-of-war with the bed.


The serenity of a sunrise beats anything else.

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Happy 40th Birthday, my dear friend. May there be many more sunrises to come, and may there be someone dear for me to watch the sunrise with… : )


Yup… Its a beautiful day and let’s cherish every single day that we have…. be it Birthday or not…


Adventuring Yogyakarta

As there were quite a number of attractions at Yogyakarta, I decided to split up the blog post and cover the different attractions in this blog post. You can read (part I) Exploring Yogyakarta here.

Attractions Collage

Clockwise from top left: Jomblang Cave, Prambanan Temples, Borobudur Temple, Parangritis Beach

Date of Trip : 12 to 17 February 2015, Thursday to Tuesday

To : AirAsia QZ 659, 12 Feb 2015, Thursday, 11.10am – 12.25pm
Return : AirAsia AK 1791, 17 Feb 2015, Tuesday, 7.25am – 10.25am
Cost of Flight : S$220 per pax, with two way 15kg check-in luggage

5 nights Accommodation at Whiz Hotel : SG$123.46 per pax (twin-share)

You can read my review of this accommodation here.


Borobudur Temple
On the second day of our trip, we chartered a cab (from the same cab driver which brought us from Yogyakarta airport to our hotel) for a day trip to Borobudur Temple. As we intended to shoot the sunrise from Borobudur Temple, we chartered his cab for an 11-hour day trip from 4am to 3pm at IDR 350,000.

By 3.50am, we were standing-by and waiting for him at the hotel’s lobby. We started chatting with the hotel staff and upon learning that we were going to shoot sunrise from Borobudur Temple, he suggested that we visit Punthuk Setumbu lookout point too. With his suggestion, we switched plans and decided to make a trip to Punthuk Setumbu lookout point instead.

We reached Punthuk Setumbu lookout point at about 5.15am and paid an entrance fee of IDR 30,000 per pax (SG$3.20) and a parking fee of IDR 5,000 (SG$0.50).


To our dismay, it was a mountain view with the sun popping out from behind the mountains. We have had tons of mountain sunrise shots with the most recent one from Myanmar just 2 months ago. Disappointed that this wasn’t exactly what we had in mind, we decided to make a dash for Borobudur Temple in a last frail attempt to try and catch a glimpse of the rising sun with the Buddha’s silhouette.


Sunrise from Punthuk Setumbu lookout point. Well, this wasn’t exactly what we have in mind. And instead of spending more time here, we decided to make a dash to Borobudur Temple to try to catch a sunrise with the Buddha’s silhouette.

But alas, we were a tad too late when we got to Borobudur Temple at 6am. The sun had risen.

Nonetheless, we paid the entrance fees of IDR 280,000 and entered the temple.

For those of you that are keen to do a sunrise shoot at Borobudur Temple, you would need to make your way to Manohara Hotel and purchase a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee ticket costing IDR 380,000. This ticket entitles you to enter the temple before 6am (after 4am).

Guests staying at Manohara Hotel enjoys a discount and pays IDR 230,000 for a Sunrise + Borobudur Entrance Fee. Similarly, this ticket entitles you to enter the temple after 4am and before 6am.

Pricing Structure
Entrance Fee (after 6am) = IDR 280,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Public) = IDR 380,000
Sunrise (Surcharge from 4am to 6am) + Entrance Fee (Manohara Hotel guests) = IDR 230,000


Covering 2,500 square meters, Borobudur Temple is the world’s largest Mahayana Buddhist monument and this five tiered architectural site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The monument consists of six square platforms topped by three circular platforms and houses 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome located at the centre of the top platform is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated within a perforated stupa.


Lots of lots of stupas but only one facing sunrise that is exposed.

With so many Buddha statues, I had imagined it to be a magnificent sight. I walked round and round and round and round… only to find two Buddha statues that were ‘exposed’. One of the Buddha statues faces the sunrise direction and another faces a different direction. Oh well… It wasn’t peak season when we went and could you actually imagine the number of tourists hogging behind this one ‘exposed’ Buddha statue to shoot during peak seasons.


This is one of the ‘exposed Buddha’ whilst the rest of the Buddhas were encased within their respective perforated stupas.

According to one of the guides (as eavesdropped), the best period to visit is from May to July. But the best part of us being here during this off-peak season was that, the site was not swarming with tourists and that we were able to capture some ‘clean shots’ of the temple and of course, enjoy our favorite pasttime of camwhoring too!


A failed standing bow pose… I must practise more liaoz… Haahaa… : D


Don’t ask me what is this Xiao Char Bo doing…. Cos’ I oso dunno… Haahaa…. 🙂


The site has a rich history but we didn’t hire a guide cos we wanted to maximise the time to shoot. But, on second thoughts now, maybe we should have done so.


There were lots of these reliefs and Buddha statues. However, they were not meaningful to us as we did not hire a guide to explain its history.

Hence, after some brief strolls through the temple, we were off to Borobodur Butterfly Park which was a mere 5 minutes drive away.

Borobodur Butterfly Park
The Borobodur Butterfly Park is a very small enclosure that can be viewed ‘at one glance’. There wasn’t much butterflies when we went, and the park seemed to have more floral than butterflies. From our research, they used to charge an entrance fee, but it is now free, possibly in an attempt to push visitorship. With very minimal to shoot, we had a brief stroll through the garden and was out in less than an hour.


One of the few butterflies that I spotted.



Candi Merdut
Before heading for our lunch, we dropped by Candi Merdut temple. It looked pathetically small and with an entrance fee of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss and went for our lunch before calling it a day.


This was it for Candi Merdut. It didn’t look like there was much to see in there and with an entrance of IDR 3,500 we decided to give it a miss.

Sultan Palace (Kraton)
Sultan Palace, also known as the ton, / Karaton or Kraton defines a place where the Queen and King resides. It was a grand complex that was meticulously planned to reflect the Javanese cosmos. Started in 1755, constructions were completed some 35 years later, in 1790.

Today, it is a museum for visitors in the mornings, and a functioning palace in the afternoons, where it is being used for official functions, political meetings and as the royal residence. Do take note that the palace is only open to visitors from 830am to 1230pm, except for Fridays and Saturdays where it closes at 11am. It is closed on all afternoons.

Located in the city centre, we caught a becek (trishaw), costing IDR 20,000 for a 15 minutes ride to the Kraton.


We arrived the palace at about 10am, and paid an entrance fees of IDR 12,500 per pax and IDR 1,000 for camera charges. My travel mate was stopped at the entrance for wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and had to purchase a top from one of the stalls. (Strict dress code applies here; No sleeveless T-shirt for guys. I didn’t seem to see any for ladies though and I was wearing a short sleeve tee-shirt with berms.)



My travel mate wearing his new batik top costing IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10). Dashing right… Heh heh hehh… : D

As we entered the palace, we walked through a pavilion or “Pagelaran” where the Sultan’s ministers and troops used to assemble. Now, this space is being used for musical and theatrical performances on the last Sunday of each month and special occasions such as the Sultan’s birthday. We were pretty lucky that our visit coincided with one of these performances and were treated to a Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show) although we visited on a Saturday morning. As time was tight, we didn’t sit through the entire performance and started to make our way around the palace.


How lucky of us to arrive just-in-time for this Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet show).

Most of the pavilions or “pendopo” we came across were, largely open air structures, supported by ornately carved pillars. However, many of these very pretty pavilions were out-of-bounds to visitors and it was really such a shame.


Many of the pavilions had these signages and were out-of-bounds to visitors. If so, why do they bother to even open up the palace for visitation in the first place, I wondered….


So much attention given to the pillars.


Love this ‘street lamp’ near the palace entrance.

Housed within the palace were several ‘museums’, bearing different artifacts of Javanese musical instruments, antiques and heirlooms. Most of the descriptions were either in Bahasa Indonesian or badly constructed English. Either way, it was a good guessing game on what the artifact was about or trying to divulge. With minimal English descriptions, it is a no wonder that this place was an ideal location for the second pit stop in The Amazing Race 19. Haahaa… 🙂


The only, ‘very palace-like’ pavilion at the Kraton

Taman Sari / Water Castle
2km to the south of the Sultan palace, lies an open secret. Constructed in 1758, the Taman Sari also known as Taman Sari Water Castle was used as a bathing complex, resting area, workshop, meditation area, defense area and a hiding place.

The Taman Sari consisted of four distinct areas; a bathing complex in the centre, a complex of pavilions and pools in the south, a lake in the east and a large lake with islands and pavilions in the west. However, today, only the central bathing complex remains as many other parts of the complex were destroyed during the British invasion in 1812.


There are two gates leading to the bathing complex. The western gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Hageng and the eastern gate is known as Gedhong Gapura Panggung. Both gates are decorated with ornaments of stylized birds and flowering foliages as seen in above pic.

When I stepped foot at the central bathing complex, I stopped dead in my tracks. Disappointed and disillusioned, the bathing complex’s glorious days … … as it is named… was a thing of its past. It used to be a pool for the royals, but now it just looks like a sad pool for the mozzies. The pool is no longer maintained and the bottom was engulfed by moss and fungi. Ohh well, so much for the awesome pictures that I saw online.


We ventured around the passages and pathways and came across a group of people sitting inside a circular area. Wondering how they got there, we walked around looking for it. And out of the nowhere, we stumbled upon an entrance to the Gumuling Well (Sumur Gumuling), which was a circular structure being used as a mosque in the 1700s.

The entrance led to an underground tunnel and the underground tunnel had a mystery feel to it and it felt like we were going on some Nat Geo exploration when walked down the steps into the dark tunnel. In there, it was cold and empty with some light coming through the arches.


Going on a Nat Geo exploration.


The light coming through the arches made for such awesome ‘feel-yin’ shots.

Reaching the central area of the building was an elevated platform where four staircases meet. And from the platform, there is a staircase that brings one up to the first level. The platform got kind of crowded when everyone tried to get a snapshot on it. Eventually, we didn’t want to wait and left.

We followed some locals and came to a dilapidated one level structure known as the Kenongo building. In the past, the entire area that we were standing on, was known as the Segaran Lake (a man-made lake). This man-made lake was then the main complex of Taman Sari. In the middle of this man-made lake was an island and on that island, was this Kenongo building.


Nothing left of the Kenongo Building except this ruins

Today, the Segaran lake has been drained of its water and the lake bed has been taken over by human settlements. There is nothing left of Kenongo building now, except these ruins.


This area, once an artificial lake, is now filled with human settlements


Saw this really cool-looking peeping hole at the back of the ruins


Climbed up this rock and I felt like I’ve been transported to another world

Jomblang Cave
According to the research, not many tour operators knew how to get to Jomblang Cave and hence to save the hassle, we called up the owner directly (Mr Cahyo Alkantana +62 81111 7010).

The transport picked us up from our accommodation at 730am and it was a 2 hours drive to Jomblang Cave. The last 300m leading to the site was very very very bumpy and it could very well be the bumpiest ride I’ve ever ever sat through. Although it was a mere 15 minutes drive on that bumpy stretch, it felt like forever with your guts spilling out from your throat with every bump.

We arrived the site at about 930am and after some tea and fitting on the rubber boots, we were all set to go on our adventure.


We made new friends!

Sadly for me, they didn’t have any rubber boots of my size, as they were either too small or too big. I didn’t have a choice and had to force my feet into a pair that was two sizes smaller and I finally could comprehend how a bound-feet woman in the Chinese ancient time feels like. It was excruciating! And to top it up, the inside of the rubber boots were wet and muddy from the previous users making it even more nasty.

We got to the edge of the cliff and were hoisted 20 meters down to the bottom of the cave.


See the staff behind me…? That’s where we were being hoisted 20m down the cliff before getting into the cave. Ohh man… I need Superman powers to do this…!

Upon reaching the bottom of the cave, we had to trek through a forest trail before arriving at the mouth of the cave. As we were there during the rainy season, the way down to Jomblang cave was wet, slippery and muddy. There were no hand rails and proper stairs except for a rope stringed through several poles planted gingerly into the soft muddy ground to act as support. We were literally going on all fours, getting down and dirty.


After the descend, we made our way into a tunnel and had to trek over rocks, rocks and more rocks. I had to maneuver my way around carefully as it was dark, wet, muddy, slippery and remember that my rubber boots were ill-fitting too! It was made worse as I did not have a strong enough light to illuminate the path ahead of me and I was honestly using my feet to feel my way around. I’m not too sure if the organisers provided headlamps cos’ I was not given one and had to use my own tiny weenie hand-held torch which didn’t provide much light.

After an arduous 20 minute trek, we finally got to Luweng Grubug, a sinkhole with the stunning “heaven’s light”.

It was a very surreal magical feeling when we saw the 90m light pillar shine through the flowstone in the dark cave.

We climbed onto a calcite rock and basked in the light. The best time to be here is from 10am to 12noon when sunlight shines directly into the hole. We came here hoping to see this ray of light and we were so thankful that it was a bright and sunny day and the light rays coming through were just so strong and majestic. We took shots, lots of it, cos it was just simply amazing and jaw-dropping. Awesome is an understatement.





See the tiny weenie light that I have on my bag? That’s how much light I had in the pitch dark tunnel. Haahaa… : p

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way back up. Awwww….

It has not been an easy caving experience but we loved the authentic experience of going on all fours and getting really dirty rather than the touristy version of well-paved paths and tracks. Despite the many discomforts and high costs, the two hours car ride getting here was totally worth it. It has been our favorite activity on this trip.

Some tips to take note of when going for the caving adventure;
1. Wear clothes that you intend to discard as we got all muddy from the caving and the mud stains were still irremovable after the hotel’s laundry service. Long pants would help prevent any abrasions during the descend as well as provide some additional surface area for wiping the mud off your hands.

2. Bring along a hat / cap or shower cap so that you could put it on before placing the helmet as the helmet reeks of a thousand years perspiration!

3. Wear slip-on foot-wear as you would need to change out into rubber boots cos’ I’m sure you wouldn’t want to stain your clean socks and shoes with mud. (There are shower cubicles where you could wash off the mud though.)

4. Bring along a waterproof camera or house your camera / handphone in a waterproof casing with a lanyard over the neck. The cave is rather wet and it can get quite cumbersome to take the camera in and out from the bag pack.

5. BYOH ~ Bring your own headlamp. I’m not too sure if they provide headlamps cos’ I was not given one. My friend was given a handheld torch whilst the other two guests were given headlamps. I had to use my own tiny weenie handheld torch which was rather weak and didn’t provide much assistance. However, having said that, whatever small amount of light was better than none as it got really really pitch dark at certain segments of the cave. A headlamp would be a better alternative as it frees up both your hands to grab onto the sides if you should need to.

The caving experience costs IDR 450,000 per pax inclusive of a boxed lunch and the transport costs IDR 500,000 per vehicle. Since there were only both of us, we paid IDR 700,000 (SG$73) each. We contemplated on doing so as it wasn’t exactly cheap, but thankfully we decided to go ahead with it as it had been such a phenomenal experience.

Parangritis Beach
Parangritis Beach and Jomblang cave are not too far from one another. My suggestion would be that you speak to the driver that brings you to Jomblang Cave to send you to Parangritis beach after the Jomblang Cave activity ends. I’m not too sure how much additional that will costs as we made the mistake of going back to our hotel at the city centre and then going to Parangritis beach, wasting too much time and incurring higher costs.

map parangritis beach

Parangritis beach is a popular tourist beach located on the southern coast of Java. We were enticed by the mirror reflection on the shallow coastline as seen in many of the promotional pictures and decided to make a trip there. We were so overwhelmed by our caving experience in the earlier part of the day, that it had completely slipped my mind to visit this location right after the caving experience.


Thankfully, we still had beautiful sunshine when we got to Parangritis beach.



This beach is not exactly the best beach for swimming as it is known to have strong rips and currents tormenting it. But comes sunset, the volcanic black sand coupled with the shallow coastline turned the shore into a long glistening stretch of mirror, transforming it into an amazing photo piece. Although we didn’t spend a lot of time on this beach, it was our second favorite attraction on this trip.



Love the beautiful mirror reflection on the beach during sunset

Queen of the South Resort
Our driver suggested we visit “Queen of the South” resort for dinner as it offered a magnificent view of the beach during sunset. True enough, when we got to the “Queen of the South” resort, there was an infinity pool overlooking the sea. I could so imagine myself sipping a cocktail, hanging over the edge of the pool, watching the sun dip into the abyss of the sea. Woww… this is life!


As the restaurant was closed for that day, we did not manage to have dinner here but we were glad that we dropped by albeit such a short time.

Prambanan Temples
As we read that Prambanan Temples and Ratu Boko Temple were nearby and that Ratu Boko was a perfect location for sunset, we decided to run the trip in the afternoon and catch the sunset at Ratu Boko. We started the half day tour at 2pm and bamm… not the best decision afterall.

We got to Prambanan Temples at about 3.30pm and after an hour or so, we were still not done.




Hence, we had to forgo Ratu Boko Temple as the last entry time was 5pm. Since we were unable to catch the sunset at Ratu Boko Temple, we settled for dinner at Boko Resto (a restaurant nearby) so as to catch the Ramayana Ballet performance at 7.30pm.

The restaurant offers a view overlooking the city but the sunset was partially blocked at the angle where we were at. What a shame!


Nothing fantastic about the dinner, but the view on my left was jes awesome for a rough day like this

We ended the dinner at about 7pm and headed to the Ramayana Ballet performance. And to our surprise, there was no performance on the day that we went! Ahhhh…. How could this have happened?! We miss the sunset and now, we miss the Ramayana Ballet performance. Argghhh…. Well… I guess it was my own oversight that we underestimated the time we needed at Prambanan temples and hence missed the sunset and I had also not researched well enough that there was no performance on the day that I went. Do click on this Ramayana Ballet Performance schedule to check for the performances dates before making your trip down, and hopefully you’ll not make the same mistake that I did…!

It had been an interesting and memorable trip and my ‘favoritiest’ activity on this trip was the caving experience as it offered a very unique and astounding adventure. This was followed by the short sunset that we had on Parangritis beach which was really gorgeous and breath-taking. I am not a shopaholic but I cannot hide the fact that I loved the unbelievable prices I had at Malioboro street which really put ‘shop till you drop’ to the test. And of course, not forgetting the unlimited amount of Magnum ice creams that I had… Awwww… how much I missed that since returning home to SG.


Exploring Yogyakarta

Date of Trip : 12 to 17 February 2015, Thursday to Tuesday

To : AirAsia QZ 659, 12 Feb 2015, Thursday, 11.10am – 12.25pm
Return : AirAsia AK 1791, 17 Feb 2015, Tuesday, 7.25am – 10.25am
Cost of Flight : S$220 per pax, with two way 15kg check-in luggage

5 nights Accommodation at Whiz Hotel : SG$123.46 per pax (twin-share)

When I told my friends I’m going Yogyakarta, most of my friends would go, “Huhh, Where? Jakarta you mean…” “No. Not Jakarta. Yogyakarta.” I explained (over and over again). Haahaa… 🙂


Off to Yogyakarta, not Jakarta.

Yogyakarta can be quite a mouthful for some, and although both are in Indonesia and ends with a ‘karta’, they are not of the same place. As we can see from the map below, Jakarta is pretty much north of Java, whilst Yogyakarta is on the south.


Same same ‘karta’, but different.

This blog post will hopefully give you a better insight into Yogyakarta; what to expect and what to take note. I’ll be covering some favorite places of interest in the next blog post. Do keep a look out for it.

Where is Yogyakarta?
Located in Indonesia, Yogyakarta is home to Borobudur temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It is also within close proximity to the Prambanan Temples, the Sultan Palace (Kraton), Jomblang Cave, several beaches and museums. Many tourists visit Yogyakarta for its strong Javanese culture and tradition. Today, it is the second most important tourist destination in Indonesia after Bali. With such a massive site for photo opportunities, what could stop my photo pal and myself from making a trip there? It was another check off our bucket list.

Attractions Collage

Clockwise from top left : Jomblang Cave, Prambanan Temples, Borobudur, Parangritis Beach.

Price Haggling
Well, I would never have thought that my price haggling skills would start right from the minute I land at Yogyakarta till the minute I depart.

As we were exiting Yogyakarta Adisucipto International Airport (JOG), cab drivers started crowding around us, asking us where we wanted to go and started tailing us. For a ride from the airport to the city centre / Malioboro area, one of them quoted us IDR 100,000 (SG$11). We did our research and thanks to many of you out there who had so generously shared your information with us, (which I shall attempt to do so as well), we read that a ride from the airport to the city should costs no more than IDR 50,000 (SG$5.50). After much haggling and walking away, he finally relented and charged us IDR 50,000 ~ half of his initial quoted price.


Lots of cab drivers awaiting to hound you.

On our return journey to the airport, we hailed a cab from the street just outside our hotel. We were told by the hotel staffs that the cab drivers outside our hotel ran on meter and hence got into one of the cabs. After we settled in comfortably, the cab driver quoted us IDR 70,000 for the ride. We insisted that he ran on meter since the hotel staff said so. Disgruntled, he turned on the meter and took us to the airport.

The flagdown rate started at IDR 6,650 and it was a IDR 400 jump each click. When we arrived at the airport, the meter read IDR 54,650. We did not have anymore small change with us and gave him a IDR 100,000. He did not have small change either (or perhaps pretended not to have, I’m not sure, I choose to believe in the first) and returned us IDR 35,000. Our trip to the airport had costs us IDR 65,000 instead of the metered IDR 54,650.


Bought these shawls that went from 3 for IDR 100,000 to 2 for IDR 50,000 to 3 for IDR 60,000.

Over the week, we had several instances of price haggling from getting onto a becak to purchasing a shawl. We were outside Candi Merdut when the street vendor offered her shawls at 3 for IDR 100,000. As I expressed interest, she went from 3 for IDR 100,000 to 2 for IDR 50,000 and then 3 for IDR 60,000. Ultimately, I got my purchase at 5 for IDR 100,000 as she didn’t have IDR 40,000 change.

Mode of Transport
After getting into Yogyakarta city, there are several main modes of going around. For several of the day trips, we chartered a cab. Other times, we either went on foot or caught a becek (trishaw). Below is a guide of the prices we paid.

Took a becak from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Kraton (about 15 mins ride) = IDR 20,000


The quoted price for a becek was IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10 for 2 paxs). Its rather affordable and we didn’t have the heart to bargain it down further.

Chartered Cabs
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to catch Borobudur sunrise from 4am to 3pm = IDR 350,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Jomblang Cave from 7.30am to 3pm = IDR 500,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Parangritis beach from 4.30pm to 9.30pm = IDR 200,000
Chartered 2 ways cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Prambanan Temples from 2pm to 10pm = IDR 150,000
Cab from Airport to Whiz hotel at Malioboro area = IDR 50,000 (negotiated down from IDR 100,000)
Cab from Whiz hotel at Malioboro area to Airport
Actual metered costs = IDR 54,650
Paid = IDR 65,000 as we did not have smaller bills. (Do ensure that you have some smaller bills even until you have arrived at the airport for departure.)


Called up the owner of Jomblang Cave directly and he arranged for this cab to come pick us up. Very costly at IDR 500,000.

As you can see, the costs for the chartered cab to Jomblang cave was the most expensive, as firstly, not many drivers know the way there and secondly, the last 300m to the cave was very very very bumpy which needed a 4-wheel drive to get through. Although it was a mere 15 minutes drive on that very bumpy stretch, it felt like forever with your guts spilling out from your throat with every bump. For this day trip, we called up the owner of Jomblang Cave directly (Mr Cahyo Alkantana +62 81111 7010), and he arranged for a driver to come pick us up at IDR 500,000. I reckon you could find your own driver at a lower cost if he is familiar with the roads and knows his way there.

We did a 5 nights stay at Whiz Hotel which was located at the Malioboro area. It wasn’t exactly right smack on Malioboro street but a side road adjacent to it. To me, I think it is an excellent location as it is within 1 minute of walking distance to all the food and shopping amenities but yet not as crowded and as noisy on the Malioboro street. The street that we stayed on is known as Jl. Dagen and Whiz Hotel is the first hotel on this stretch after a right / left turn from Malioboro street. Malioboro street is an equivalent to Singapore’s Orchard Road with lots of shopping and eateries etc.

Whiz Hotel

Love this hotel for its price and location. Highly recommended!

At about SG$25 per pax, per night for a twin room, not only is it affordable, it is also clean and modernly furnished. Although it is a tad small, I’ll still give my two thumbs up for its price, location, cleanliness and convenience. A hotel that I’ll highly recommend.

Hotel Collage

Costs SG$25 per pax, per night – its a two thumbs up!

Local Delights 
I’m no foodie but the below is an account of the local food and eateries which we tried.

Lunch at Gudeg Yu Djum: IDR 70,000 (SG$7.40)
This eatery was highly recommended by the staffs at our hotel and we decided to give it a try since it was nearby.


Was starving when we landed and thankfully the first meal at Yogyakarta was this delicious Gudeg Yu Djum’s, Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice.

We ordered the signature dish, Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice. Gudeg means jackfruit in sweet curry, and as such, it was rather aromatic and sweet on the taste buds.


One set of Gudeg with chicken and beef rind on rice costs IDR 30,000 (SG$3.20) and a bottle of Teh Botol at IDR 5,000 (SG$0.50).

Dinner at Roadside stalls: IDR 10,000 (SG$1.05) + IDR 146,000 (SG$15.40)
We strolled along the streets and came to some makeshift stalls. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to have a shot at these local stalls. We ordered the dishes without knowing what they were and how much they costs, as our conversations were only limited to ‘ayam'(chicken), ‘ikan'(fish), ‘lembu'(beef), ‘satu'(one), ‘dua'(two), ‘tiga'(three), ‘goreng'(fried), ‘pengkan'(bbq) etc. Haahaa… But well, we survived!


It was quite an experience for us eating by the roadside, sitting on the mats. Our first order was a simple ‘Cai Fan'(Dishes ontop of the rice) costing IDR 10,000 (SG$1.05).

Still feeling greedy, we got to another roadside stall and ordered ‘Zi Char’ (Dishes prepared upon order).

We had an oily deep-fried fish, prawns, stir-fried kangkung and side salad totalling IDR 146,000. The deep-dried fish costs IDR 65,000 and it was quite yumzz and fresh. The prawns on the other hand fared quite badly as they were tiny and didn’t tasted fresh.




Dinner at Dafter Restaurant: IDR 59,400 (SG$6.30)
We ended up at Dafter restaurant for one of our dinners. It was another ‘sit-on-the-floor’ dining and my travel pal was almost concussed from the contortionisms.


My poor travel pal nearly got cemented on the floor with leg cramps  : X

We decided not to have another yoga session and moved to a table seating instead.

We ordered Dafter restaurant’s specialty, Ayam Rica Rica which was fiery and spicy but a little too tough. There were five different types of sambal and each costs IDR 2,000 (The five saucers in the middle of the picture).

We tried a Wedhang Uwuh, which is a hot Javanese drink made of cloves, nutmeg, ginger and palm sugar. It was hot and spicy at the same time. The total cost for this dinner came to IDR 59,400 (SG$6.30). It was really cheap considering it was a shared dinner amongst both of us.

Dinner at Boko Resto: IDR 138,000 (SG$14.60)
Our initial plans were to visit Prambanan temples and then shoot sunset from Ratu Boko. Alas, we ran late at the Prambanan temples and had to forgo the sunset shoot. It was such a shame. However, since we were already at Ratu Boko, we decided to make the best out of it and settled for a dinner at Boko Resto (a restaurant at Ratu Boko hilltop) before hopping back to watch the Ramayana Ballet performance.

The dinner at Boko Resto was nothing extraordinary but the view that came with it was breath-taking. It had not been one of our best days and a view like this was soothing balm for the nerves.


The food was well…. nothing to rave about… but the view beside me was awesome!

Our dinner came to IDR 138,000 including a packed meal for our driver costing IDR 30,000. It was still a relatively reasonable and affordable meal considering the absolutely gorgeous view that we had.

Hotel Dafam Fortuna rooftop bar and resto
Long Island Tea: IDR 70,000 (SG$7.40)
Inspiration Cocktail: IDR 80,000 (SG$8.40)
Buffet Dinner: IDR 62,000 each (SG$6.50)
Total: IDR 331,500 (SG$35.00)
Hotel Dafam Fortuna is situated along Jl. Dagen, about a 5 minutes walk from our accommodation, Whiz Hotel. From afar, the rooftop looks ‘happening’ with glittering lights and buzz. We decided to go check it out and what a pleasant surprise it turned out to be.


Cheers to a great trip and Happy Valentine’s Day, my travel pal…! May God grant you, your dreams of finding someone lovely soon, so that you can Celebrate Life with that person and no need to be tormented by me for future trips. Heh heh hehh… 🙂

We visited on a Valentine’s Day night and they were having a Valentine’s Day special performance with buffet dinner at IDR 62,000 per pax (SG$6.50). (The usual buffet dinners on Saturdays costs IDR 60,000). The Valentine’s Day buffet dinner comprises of a variety of fishes, shells, warm items such as spaghetti and soup etc. What caught our attention was the free-flow of fishes cooked in any rendition; deep-fried, barbeque or tom yum. If you had remembered (from one of my earlier dinners), a deep-fried fish at the roadside street stall costs IDR 65,000. Here, we could have as many as we wanted at only IDR 62,000…!!


Wooo… Look at the number of fishes on display…!! Bet the staffs didn’t expect that these two gluttons would gobble up half of the stock they had there…!! Wahahaha…. : D

And yes, as you could have guessed, we lost no time in sitting ourselves down and ‘preping’ our tummies for the feast. Would you like to make a guess how many fishes we had by the end of the buffet? 2, 3, 5, 8, 10… Go on… It was a whopping 13 fishes in two hours! We tried all three renditions on the different variety of fishes. And if you think we only had one bite on each fish, nope, that was not true. We finished up the entire fish for all 13 fishes. By the end of the meal, we could feel fins growing out from our limbs and had this urge to jump into the pool and start swimming around. Haahaa…. 🙂

Dessert at roadside stall
Kuehs: IDR 8,000 (SG$0.84)
Not only did we try the local delicacies, we even laid our hands on some of the local desserts.


This seller was so cheerful and friendly that we couldn’t resist to stop and make a purchase from him.

We passed by this ‘kueh’ stall and the seller was so cheerful and friendly that we decided to get some ‘kuehs’ from him. Not knowing what they were, we ordered one of each item and the total came up to IDR 8,000 (SG$0.84).

The local putu (bamboo steamed rice cakes) costs IDR 1,000. Lumpia (fried popiah) costs IDR 3,500. Cenil (glutinous gummy with coconut flakes) costs IDR 250. Kelepon (known commonly to us as ondeh ondeh in Singapore) costs IDR 500. Onde Onde (Fried Sesame Balls) costs IDR 2,000. Now, that got us a bit confused right…?! Haahaa…. Yes, because their kelepon is actually our ondeh ondeh and their ondeh ondeh is actually our fried sesame balls. Hence, its Same Same but Different.

Ronde: IDR 7,000 (SG$0.70)

Every night, we will stroll along Malioboro street and I was tempted to get a bowl of Ronde. However, every night we got ourselves so stuffed up that there was no more room for desserts. One fine night, we decided to go easy on our dinner and make room for a bowl of Ronde since it exuded such a killer ginger aroma.


This Ronde had a killer ginger aroma. Finally got to try it after a few nights of temptation.


Ronde; Like our Tang Yuan in ginger soup, but Jogja version includes jelly, bread and peanuts.

Ronde tasted very much like our local Tang Yuan in ginger soup, but the Jogja version includes jelly, bread and roasted peanuts to the soup, giving it a crunchy bite.

Thumbs up
Shopping has never been on our agenda, especially for a ‘cultural-themed destination’ like Yogyakarta. However, we stumbled upon some great finds like some of the items below. Remember to bring some extra bucks for you’ll never know what treasures you may just chance upon.
Some of the items that were a steal :
5 Scarves = IDR 100,000 (SG$2.10 each)
Men’s Batik Shirt = IDR 20,000 (SG$2.10 each)
Ladies Batik Skirt = IDR 30,000 (SG$3.10 each)
‘Couple’ T-Shirts = IDR 30,000 each (SG$3.10 each)


Love this couple Tee. So cute. Only costs IDR 30,000 (SG$3.10) per piece 🙂 Too bad I don’t have anyone to buy for or wear with… Sighh…. 😦


The price range for a Magnum went from IDR 12,000 (SG$1.25) to IDR 15,000 (SG$1.60). For Magnum fans like myself, you’ll probably have your eyes popped out cos’ a Magnum in Singapore costs anything from SG$4 to SG$4.50. And in Yogyakarta, each Magnum went for SG$1.60 or less!


OMG… Magnum at IDR 13,000 (SG$1.40). Please teach me how to resist ?! Haahaa… : /

We did a “stock-up” of Magnums – not in any of the fridges but in our tummies. We had an average of two Magnums each day and still feel that we didn’t have enough. Haahaahaa…. 🙂


As there were quite a number of attractions at Yogyakarta, I decided to split up the blog post and cover the different attractions in the next blog post instead. Do keep a lookout for it.


A Birthday Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar

Back in 2011, I took a cab to Changi beach and shot a sunrise on my birthday. Ever since then, I will try to shoot a sunrise on my birthday to remind myself of the blessings I have had, and to rejoice in the days ahead.

In 2012, I flew to Thailand and caught a sunrise on a sunflower field in Lopburi. In 2013, I trained for 6 months and scaled the 4095.2m Mount Kinabalu, risking my dear life to catch a glimpse of the rising sun. Last year in 2014, I battled the cold winds and meandered through the thick, sandy paths in the dark on an e-bike to catch a shot of the rising sun at Bagan, Myanmar. This blog post details of my account back on that wondrous day.

3 Dec 2014, Wednesday

Unlike the previous years where I struggled to get a shot of the rising sun on my own, I had company this time round! My very sweet friend / travel pal / nanny / chauffeur / doctor / financial controller had very kindly agreed to join me on my virgin trip to Myanmar. After some planning and discussions, my birthday sunrise (as I named it) would coincide with one of the days in Bagan instead of my initial plans to catch it from a bedside window on Inle Lake.

We arrived Bagan on 2 Dec 2014, Tuesday, 8pm and rented an e-bike from a stall near our accommodation. By 5am on 3 December morning, we were up and on our way to Thisa Wadi Pagoda for a sunrise shot.

Upon arriving at the pagoda, we had to remove our footwear (Ahhh… please do not remind me how much I hated going around barefooted) and up, we went on the steps. At the top of the pagoda, we set up our tripods and waited, and waited, and waited, out in the cold, dark, windy morning before the break of dawn.

Just as we thought the dawn has broken, the sun rose from behind the hills, blanketed by a shroud of mist. In less than 5 minutes, it went from less than-a-fraction of a yolk to a full, burning egg yolk. It was simply breath-taking, awesome and a lack for better word – Amazing!


Picture shot at 6.11am


Picture shot at 6.13am.

Just as quickly as the sun came, as quickly as it left.

Below’s a wacky poem which I came up with for the morning sunrise. Haahaaa… 🙂

Early early we rose for the dawn,
Off we go on our E-bike with headlights on.
Up and up the sunrays flaunt,
One by one, everyone else is gone.
Two Ah Xiao’s suddenly went ding dong,
For all you know, tomorrow, a fashion star is born…
(“Ah Xiao” is a Singaporean (Hokkien) term meaning loony peeps and “Ding Dong” meaning crazy)

And thereafter, when everyone else was gone, we did what we loved best!

A friend once described both of us as, “Put these two together with cameras and they are like kids in a candy store” and there is no doubt about that! We were shrilling over how and where to pose as if we were really super models. And the best part was that, both of us were neither the most stunning, flawless subjects, but yet, we brought out the best in each other. And that is the best part of having a crazy travel pal.


My Birthday – hence, the dressed up for the ‘fashion-shoot’! Haahaa… : D


Man-Hunt of the Year


This is one of my favorite pics! Simply loved the context of this pic with the high ceiling, lighting and shadow. Shot at Dhamma-Yan-Gyi Temple.

20141203_140314_Richtone(HDR) R1

This is another pic which I loved. The juxtaposition of a small subject in a wide and large space. Converted it to black and white and gave it a dash of colour on my dress. Shot at Dhamma-Yan-Gyi Temple.


My photo pal, travel buddy, stylist, nanny, chauffeur, doctor, financial controller, all rolled in one. What more can I ask for…

Night came and we chanced upon this eatery. Not too long after we sat down, we bumped into Nick (again!) for the third time. We were on the same flight from Inle to Bagan and bumped into him at Thisa Wadi Pagoda during the morning sunrise and then here again at dinner. It was too much of a coincidence. Maybe he was stalking me! Wahahaa… Jes kidding! I wished! 🙂

We invited him to join us for dinner. Upon realising that it was my Birthday, he sang me a Birthday song in Ming Nan language (Taiwanese Hokkien). Awww… How sweet of him.


Bumped into Nick once again (for the third time), and invited him to join us for dinner.

We decided to proceed to a cafe to chill. But as we couldn’t locate a nice and conducive one, we bought some drinks and headed back to our accommodation for some quiet time.

Quietly and sneakingly, Nick had bought a cake (a swissroll) to celebrate my birthday. I was really taken aback and touched as we had barely known each other. Every other year, I would be celebrating my Birthday (actual day) alone. This time round, not only did I have my best friend with me which was already such a bonus, I had such a shweet surprise from a new-found friend too. It was a day that will bring back many beautiful, lovely, memories for a long time to come.


Thank you for the lovely Bday cake, Nick and also a big hug to my bestest friend for the shweet dinner and drinks.







S̄wạs̄dī xīk khrậng Krabi ~ Hello Again, Krabi (Day 3 : 11 Jan 2014) ~ Wat Kaew Temple, Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market

11 January 2014, Saturday

After a good massage on the previous night, we were totally konked out till a good 10am the next morning.

By the time we got our butts moving, it was almost 12 noon!

But well, this was our version of a real holiday ~ to sleep in, rest and relax and take it easy.


Sleep In, Rest and Relax and Take it Easy … …

After contemplating some options, we decided to visit Wat Kaew Temple in Krabi town.

We stole a glimpse of it on our first night, but didn’t really get round to explore it.

Getting across the road opposite our hotel, we took a Song Theaw (costing THB 60 per pax) to Krabi town.


Crossed the road to the beach side and took a Song Theaw costing THB 60 per pax to Krabi town.

Wat Kaew Temple also commonly known as the “White Temple”, was prominently situated in the middle of the town.

It looked very much like a white tiered wedding cake.

Located on a gradual hill, the entrance is lined with naga sculptures and faces one of the town main streets.

It is almost difficult to miss this temple.


Would not miss this white Wat Kaew Temple situated near the main roads in Krabi town.

Although it is one of the largest temples in Krabi, it is not as popular or commercialized as Wat Tham Suea (The Tiger Cave).

And in fact, it is very much the opposite of Wat Tham Suea. This temple was very quiet and serene and there were little locals much less tourists.

Strolling up some (100) steps, we came to the ‘main hall’ of the temple.

The interior was bright with light rays entering through the windows.

We were greeted by the golden Buddha in the middle of the blue room with red ceiling.

It was a first time for me seeing such strong vibrant colours in a temple.


Such exquisite interior of the temple

Outside the ‘main hall’ were two pavillions, one on each side. We didn’t know what the pavillions were for, but they certainly made good meditation grounds.


One pavilion on each side of the main hall

There were lots of potted plants by the temple and when I looked closer, there was an array of bugs, insects, butterflies, damselflies etc. Oh my, that was my buffet for the day!

Although I didn’t have my macro lens with me, I stay rooted at the potted plants trying to capture those creepy crawlies going about their daily activities.

I loved the interaction between the different species. It was emotionally therapeutic to find so many species in one spot! Nature sure was amazing.


Love the array of species to macro here…!! Shot using Samsung S4.

It was not a very huge temple, but Darren and I spent close to 2 hours here shooting, whilst May and Chee Hong had a 1.5 hours ‘meditation session’ in the pavillion. Haahaa… 🙂


Meditation in progress… Do Not Disturb…

Our growling tummies got us scampering out of the temple, settling for a late lunch at a roadside stall and some desserts at Swensens just across the temple.


Swensens…!! yUmmzz… : D

Just as we thought we were rounding up our day, we chanced upon the Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market behind the mall.

Now, this was a ‘genuine’ night market as compared to the one we saw on our first night.

It was later then we found out that this night market only operated on Fridays and weekends, from 5pm to 10pm.


Chao Fah Krabi Weekend Night Market. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays, 5pm to 10pm.

There were food stalls selling local delicacies, cocktails in bamboos, yellow bean paste desserts in the shape of fruits and animals (Kao Noom Look Choup), irresistibly delicious looking cakes, adorable sushi bits and many others.

Krabi night market food collage resized 1

Look at all the drooling yummies…

The other stretch of the night market sold souvenirs ranging from Tee-Shirts, customised name pouches, handicrafts, art sculptures etc.

There were also street performances such as a musical band and a traditional Thai dance.

Krabi Night Market Arts Collage Resize 1

Arts, Cultural, Shopping all in one…

We ate, we shopped, we bought, we watched.

The market was nothing but full of vibrancy and colours.

It was perhaps the most delightful activity in this sleepy little Krabi town.

As we didn’t want to end up taking the last Song Theaw back (as like the first night), we called it a day by 7.30pm, heading back to our accommodation in Ao Nang area.


Bought this colourful worm at THB 20 from a handicapped old man, in memory of a ‘千脚虫’ project that we did some years back… : )

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蔡淳佳 – 陪我看日出





雨下了走好路 这句话我记住


雨过了就有路 像那年看日出







雨下了走好路 , 这句话我记住


雨过了就有路 , 像那年看日出



雨下了走好路 , 这句话我记住


雨过了就有路 , 像那年看日出



虽然一个人, 我并不孤独 ,  在心中你陪我看每一个日出


GIF from Zero to Hero

I was greatly inspired by the animated GIFs on my good fren’s blog post and decided to try one on my own too.

GIF or technically known as Graphics Interchange Format is a bitmap image format that was born in 1987.

GIFs are typically suitable for logos, low-colour sprite data for games, small animations and low resolution film clips. With its wide support, portabiliy and most importantly, a loss-less compression technique to reduce the file size without degrading the visual quality, GIFs had gained huge popularity and wide-spread use very quickly over the years.

I googled, read up and watched YouTube videos on how to do up an animated gif but was still perplexed by how they did it.

Perhaps the on-line materials were not specific enough, or that my photoshop skills were just too mediocre, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

After an entire afternoon of hopeless trying, I eventually gave up and sought my friend’s help. He patiently walked me through it step by step, which I am totally grateful for.

I chose the below set of 4 pics to animate.

Step 0

Step 1 : I open these 4 pics in Photoshop CS5.

Step 01

Step 1 : Open pics in Photoshop CS 5.

Step 2 : I used Pic 1 (Prepares to Jump) as the background layer and had to copy the remaining  3 pics into separate layers within one same pic.

Go to the Pic 2 (1,2,3 Jump), use the “Rectangular Marquee” tool on the left and drag the corner of the tool to frame up Pic 2. You should see dotted running lines after you have done the selection. Click “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 02

Step 2 : Use Rectangular Marquee tool to draw up Pic 2. “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 3 : Go back to Pic 1. “Edit” > “Paste” and you’ll see a “Layer 1” above the background layer. Layer 1 is actually Pic 2. Now, there will be a “Background” and a “Layer 1”, both reflecting Pic 2 because Layer 1 is now ‘on top’ of the background layer and that the background layer is ‘beneath’ Layer 1.

Step 03

Step 3 : Go back to Pic 1 and click “Edit” > “Paste” into Pic 1.

Step 4 : Do the same for Pic 3.
Go to Pic 3 (Ahh, my shoe), use the “Rectangular Marquee Tool” tool on the left and drag the corner of the tool to frame up Pic 3. You should see dotted running lines after you have done the selection. Click “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 04

Step 4 : Use Rectangular Marquee tool to draw up Pic 3. “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 5 : Go back to Pic 1. “Edit” > “Paste” and you’ll see a “Layer 2” above Layer 1. Now, there will be a “Background”, “Layer 1” and “Layer 2”, all reflecting Pic 3 because Layer 2 is now ‘on top’ of “Layer 1” and “Background” layer and that the “Background” layer and “Layer 1” is ‘beneath’ Layer 2.

Step 05

Step 5 : Go back to Pic 1 and click “Edit” > “Paste” into Pic 1.

Step 6 : Do the same for Pic 4.
Go to Pic 4 (Where’s my shoe), use the “Rectangular Marquee Tool” tool on the left and drag the corner of the tool to frame up Pic 4. You should see dotted running lines after you have done the selection. Click “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 06

Step 6 : Use Rectangular Marquee tool to draw up Pic 4. “Edit” > “Copy”.

Step 7 : Go back to Pic 1. “Edit” > “Paste” and you’ll see a “Layer 3” above Layer 2. Now, there will be a “Background”, “Layer 1”, “Layer 2” and “Layer 3”, all reflecting Pic 4 because Layer 3 is now ‘on top’ of “Layer 2”, “Layer 1” and “Background” layer and that the “Background” layer and “Layer 1”, “Layer 2” is ‘beneath’ “Layer 3”.

Step 07

Step 7 : Go back to Pic 1 and click “Edit” > “Paste” into Pic 1.

Step 8 : Click “Windows” > “Animation” and you’ll see a horizontal bar popping out on your screen.

Step 08

Step 8 : Click “Windows” > “Animation”.

Step 9 : At the top right corner of this horizontal bar, click into “Make Frames from Layers”. Once you click onto “Make Frames from Layers”, there will be 4 frames in the horizontal bar.

Step 09a

Step 9(a) : Click top right button.

Step 9b

Step 9(b) : Click into “Make Frames from Layers”.

Step 09c

Step 9(c) : You should see 4 frames and 4 layers.

This was where my nightmare came about when I spent the entire afternoon figuring out how to do this.

Step 10 : In Frame 1, ensure that the “Eye” Icon is only at “Background”.

Step 10

Step 11 : In Frame 2, ensure that the “Eye” Icon is only at “Layer 1”.

Step 11

Step 12 : In Frame 3, ensure that the “Eye” Icon is only at “Layer 2”.

Step 12

Step 13 : In Frame 4, ensure that the “Eye” Icon is only at “Layer 3”.

Step 13

Step 14 : Now, there are 4 frames with 4 layers each. But each frame has only ONE “Eye” icon.

Step 14 Collage

Step 15 : Set the timing of the individual frames in the Red Circle and the amount of looping you prefer in the yellow circle. Press “Play” button and woolah… you should see the animation.

Step 15

Step 15 : Set the timing and looping you prefer. Press “Play” button and woolah… you should see the animation…!! ; D

Step 16 : Click “File” > “Save for Web & Devices”.
Choose “GIF” at top.
At Image Size (bottom), reduce Width to 500px (for a smaller file size) and height will be autogenerated.
Click “Save”.
Click “Images Only” at Format.
Click “Save”.

Step 16a

Step 16(a) : Save for Web & Devices

Step 16b

Step 16(b) : Save (Images Only)

Step 17 : Go to your file and you should be able to see the animation now.

Getting the GIF to work in WordPress
My second nightmare was to get the GIF file working on this blog site for a previous blog post.

I trialed and error and it still did not work. Again, I googled for information and YouTubes on it and here’s my findings.

Step 1 : During uploading of the media file in Word Press, save as “Full Size”, otherwise, the GIF file will not run.

Step WP 01

WordPress Step 1 : Save in “FULL SIZE”, otherwise GIF will not run.

Step 2 : Ensure that the GIF is on “Original Size” (Full size) as per uploaded. File size should preferably be kept to 500mm width pixels.

Step WP 02

WordPress Step 2 : Ensure that file is in “ORIGINAL SIZE” / (FULL SIZE) as per previous step.

Step 3 : Insert into your post and you should be able to see the animation!

Below’s a copy of the GIF animation which I did… 🙂


Its quite interesting to see the pictures animate. Have fun creating yours !   🙂

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The Real Stars on a Stars Trip

Date of Trip         :             4 to 6 Oct 2013

Trip                       :             Mersing

IMG_2949Armed with camera gears and a tripod, Anthony, Amber, Michelle and I made our way to Mersing in an attempt to shoot the Milky Way and Star Trails.

When we arrived the resort at 12 midnight, we dropped our luggages and got to ‘work’ immediately.


As busy as I was chasing the Milky Way and Star Trails, little did I know that the real Stars were right before my eyes and they are none other than my companions on this trip!

I have been on trips with many different friends, different groups and at different locations and truly believe that a group dynamics can make or break a trip.


We can go to the most exotic place on earth but with a group that was not in sync, even three days could feel like a decade.

Or we can go to the most rustic place on earth with nothing much to offer, but with a strong and cohesive group dynamics, there was always something we could self-entertain with.


And in this trip, at this resort, it was a testament that it was not where we went that mattered, but who we go with that made the difference.

Mersing on her own had nothing much to offer, but the company that I went with made up for its inadequacies.

We jumped, we levitate, we hadouken and we had a total of 315 “self-entertained” shots in two days!


The world is round – when we have friends … : D

We shot a lightning storm, played with light painting, got our star trails and watched a movie at 1am under the stars whilst running our time lapses.

Many times, we just acted on the spur of the moment and in randomness. Even the shy and quiet Anthony was dragged out of his shell to join us in our wackiness.

At the end of the trip, it was no longer the Milky Way and Star Trails that made the trip, but the company that were the real STARS on this expedition.

We watched Richard Gere’s “Hachiko” under the stars at 1am whilst running the time lapses. It was a heart-warming, tear-jerking, real-life love story between a man (Richard Gere) and his most loyal companion (Hachiko, a Hakita breed dog). Even when Richard Gere passed on, Hachiko continued to wait at the Shibuya train station at 5pm sharp every evening for the next 9 years till he meets his owner once again (in heaven) where they lived happily ever after….

Steal some time to watch this movie if you have not, for it’ll once again remind you how blessed we are to have such best friends in the world.

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Starry Starry Nights in Mersing

Date of Trip : 4 to 6 Oct 2013

An out-on-the-field night trip opened my eyes to another genre of photography ~ Astrophotography, where we experimented with shooting the Milky Way and Star Trails.

Astrophotography is a specialized type of photography that entails recording images of astronomical objects and large areas of the night sky, including the asteroids, moon, planets and stars.

It is done by using exposure over long periods of time so as to collect sufficient light to be recorded on film or digital.

Urban areas produce light pollution and hence astrophotography are usually conducted in remote locations so as to allow long exposures without the film or detectors being swamped by stray light.

Armed with gears and a couple of good friends, we made our way to Mersing in an attempt to shoot the Milky Way and some Star Trails.


From left to right; Anthony, Amber and Michelle

On the first night when we arrived the resort at 12 midnight, we dropped our luggages and got to ‘work’ immediately.

The Milky Way was faint but the entire sky was adorned with twinkling stars. It was a cool, breezy night.


Prior to our trip, Anthony reminded us to download a couple of mobile phone applications that could assist us in locating the Milky Way.

Amber downloaded “Google Sky Map”, “Moon Planner”, “Planets” and “Night Sky 2”.

Amongst these apps, we found “Planets” most useful where it indicated clearly and exactly where the Milky Way was; especially so when the Milky Way was not constant and moving as the Earth rotates.

For the other apps, they focused on the stars and the constellation alignments.


Our vote goes to “Planets” that showed clearly where the Milky Way was.


1. Camera – that goes without saying.

2. Tripod – to ensure that frames are constant and stable for the next couple of hours.

3. Fully Charged Batteries – as you would be shooting for continuous couple of hours.

4. Sufficient Memory in SD / CF cards – Format or delete all existing pictures in SD / CF cards as you would require lots of memory for shooting continuous couple of hours.

5. For astrophotography, night or sunrise shoots, always have a headlight with you so that you could free up both hands to set up the tripod and fiddle with the camera controls in the dark.

6. For Star Trails, you would need to take a series of shots (over a couple of hours) and stack them for best effects. An Intervalometer – or Timer Remote Controller would be your best bet.

With the intervalometer, you can program your camera to shoot at certain times and at certain intervals; such as a frame of 30 seconds exposure for 3 hours and so on. It helps to keep the amount of time in-between each frame constant and evenly spaced out. At the same time, this leaves you free to go do something else, while the camera gets to work.

Newly developed DSLRs have built-in intervalometers / interval shooting function. Check your camera manual if this function is available. Below are some models of camera with this function;-

Nikon D4, Nikon D800, Nikon D800E, Nikon D600, Nikon D5200, Nikon 7000, Nikon D7001

Pentax X-5, Pentax K-01, Pentax K-30

Nexus 4

For cameras without the luxury of having this feature, an intervalometer software may be the next best alternative, by tethering your camera to a laptop and let the computer software do the work of the intervalometer.

Sofortbild is a free tethering software (for Mac users) that can be used as an intervalometer.     http://www.sofortbildapp.com/

There are also various tethering programs for different cameras that could render assistance to your interval shooting. Google for one that suits your camera model.

In the last alternative, where all above sources are not available, use a cable control and stand by at the camera to shoot at regular intervals.



Once you have located the Milky Way from one of the mobile phone applications above (in A) or via your naked eyes if it was a clear night, it was time to get your camera to work.



1. Manual Focus & Turn Lens to infinity – In complete darkness (which you should be), the lens is unable to detect any focusing. Set the camera to Manual Focusing and turn the lens to Infinity (as shown on the lens as ∞) so that the lens could focus as far as it could.


2. Manual Settings at ;-

a. Aperture : F2.8 or the biggest aperture / lowest F-stop your lens could have (F3.5, F2.8, F2 etc) so that the lens could gather as much light as it could in this pure darkness.


b. Shutter Speed : 30 Secs

(May also be 15 or 20 secs, dependent on the length of your lens and if it is on a full-frame or cropped sensor. An 18mm on a cropped sensor would probably use 15 or 20 seconds and not longer than 20 seconds as it might cause the stars to appear larger in the frame with more prominent streaking. The longer the lens, the shorter the shutter speed needs to be.)


c. ISO : ISO 3200 / ISO 6400 or higher.

Again, dependent on camera model, you need to strike a balance between achieving the optimal ISO and minimal graininess in the pictures.


A guideline to some apertures and ISO are as below ;-




F 1.4


30 secs

F 2.8


30 secs

F 4


30 secs

F 5.6


30 secs

The above should only be used as a guideline. It would be best to experiment a couple of different settings and different foregrounds to get the best Milky Way shot.


Milky way in Mersing (In/behind Srikandi resort where we stayed)



If you have a clear night, with the sky blanket adorned with stars, it is time to try your hands on creating Star Trails.


Starry Starry Night in Mersing

There are two ways to go about creating star trails.

The first is to shoot one single frame with very long exposure of minimum 30 minutes to several hours.

The second is to shoot numerous shorter exposures and combined them together (Stacking).

I tried both but I preferred the second option as I did not know how long my sensor could last staying open and the last thing I want is to have my sensor burn out.


For the first method, being very conservative, I let it run on a 10 minutes exposure and had it turned off quickly.

Please see picture below. It is shot on a 10 minutes exposure in one single frame. 


Shot on Method 1: A 10 minutes exposure in one single frame.


With the second method, which was pretty similar to a time lapse photography, you will need to capture a series of shots.

Whilst time lapse photography combines the pictures into a ‘fast-forward video’, the second method combines (stacks) up the pictures into one, creating dazzling lines in one picture.

Startrails Stacked b

Shot on Method 2: A 30 seconds exposure of 46 frames + Stacking.


Similar to the Milky Way settings as above with an additional step of shooting at regular intervals to combine or stack these shots into one.

Previously, in an earlier post, I experimented with time-lapse photography using interval shooting on a Nikon D7000. You may like to read more on it here.


1. Manual Focus & Turn Lens to infinity.


2. Manual Settings at ;-

a. Aperture : F2.8 or the biggest aperture / lowest F-stop your lens could have.

b. Shutter Speed : 30 Secs / (15 Secs or 20 Secs)

c. ISO : ISO 3200 / ISO 6400 or higher.


3. Interval Shooting on a 30 secs exposure for 1 or 2 hours.


I used the above settings and set it on a 30 secs exposure, interval shooting for 1 hour. I managed to collate 62 frames from 2.01am to 3.04am.


With these 62 frames, here comes the most interesting part …

I explored around how to merge these 62 frames into one and I found the below site extremely useful which I would like to share with you.


I downloaded the (Free) StarTrails.exe using the steps below and I stacked the pictures within seconds and even managed to build a time lapse video with the same images. Having said that, it’s a very basic time lapse video without the frills of music and captions.



(E1) Click onto “StarTrails.zip 1MB”

Star Trails exe 06

Step 1 : Click onto “StarTrails.zip 1MB”

(E2) Save File.

Step 2 : Save File

(E3) Double Click into “Star Trails”.

(E4) Double Click into “Startrails Application”.

Star Trails exe 08

Step 3 and Step 4 : Double Click into Star Trails and Star Trails Application.

Once you have downloaded the “StarTrails.exe”, it is a breeze to your Star Trails experiment.

(E5) Extract All

Star Trails Exe 01

Step 5 : Extract All


(F1) Click “File” >> “Open Images” and choose your images.

Step 6 : Click “File”, “Open” and Deposit all the images in there.


Then choose “Build” >> “Startrails”, and it will begin combining all your images into one and WooLahh…. there you go, for your Star Trail pic.

Step 7 : Click “Build”, “Startrails” and the images will auto-merge into one.


Choose “Build” >> “Video”, and it will combine all of the images that you have selected into a time lapse video.

Frame Rate will indicate how fast or slow you want your time lapse video to be.

At a 1 frame per second, it simply means there is only 1 frame in each second.

For a faster time lapse, you could increase it to 10 frames per second, or even faster at 30 frames per second.

 Click <> and you’ll be able to see your fruits of labour within seconds.

Star Trails exe 09

Step 8 (Optional) : Building a Time Lapse. Click “Build”, “Video” and set the Frame Rate. The bigger the number, the faster is the video.

Please see below Star Trail and a Time-Lapse video which I created using this software.

Startrails 2

Star Trail based on 62 frames

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